Atoms and Molecules

Category archives for Atoms and Molecules

Bose Condensation of Coffee?

Writing up the evaporative cooling post on cold atom techniques, I used the standard analogy that people in the field use for describing the process: cooling an atomic vapor to BEC is like the cooling of a cup of coffee, where the hottest component particles manage to escape the system of interest, and what’s left…

In our last installment of the cold-atom toolbox series, we talked about why you need magnetic traps to get to really ultra-cold samples– because the light scattering involved in laser cooling limits you to a temperature that’s too high for making Bose-Einstein condensation (BEC). This time out, we’ll talk about how you actually get to…

We’re getting toward the end of the cold-atom technologies in my original list, but that doesn’t mean we’re scraping the bottom of the barrel. On the contrary, the remaining tools are among the most important for producing and studying truly ultra-cold atoms. Wait, isn’t what we’ve been talking about cold enough? There is, as always,…

Today’s dip into the cold-atom toolbox is to explain the real workhorse of cold-atom physics, the magneto-optical trap. This is the technology that really makes laser cooling useful, by letting you collect massive numbers of atoms at very low temperatures and moderate density. Wait a minute, I thought we already had that, with optical molasses?…

This topic is an addition to the original list in the introductory post for the series, because I had thought I could deal with it in one of the other entries. Really, though, it deserves its own installment because of its important role in the history of laser cooling. Laser cooling would not be as…

Why Do Small Science?

I spent an hour or so on Skype with a former student on Tuesday, talking about how physics is done in the CMS collaboration at the Large Hadron Collider. It’s always fascinating to get a look at a completely different way of doing science– as I said when I explained my questions, the longest author…

Last time in our trip through the cold-atom toolbox, we talked about light shifts, where the interaction with a laser changes the internal energy states of an atom in a way that can produce forces on those atoms. This allows the creation of “dipole traps” where cold atoms are held in the focus of a…

The last post in this series on the core technologies of cold-atom physics dealt with optical molasses, where you use the scattering of light to exert forces on atoms to make them very, very cold. It turns out, they end up even colder than the simple theory would lead you to expect, which is very…

`Once upon a time there were three little sisters,’ the Dormouse began in a great hurry; `and their names were Elsie, Lacie, and Tillie; and they lived at the bottom of a well–’ `What did they live on?’ said Alice, who always took a great interest in questions of eating and drinking. `They lived on…

This series of posts is intended to explain the tools and tricks used to create and manipulate samples of ultra-cold atoms; thus, it’s appropriate to start with how we get those atoms in the first place. This will be a very quick background on the basic force used to make atoms cold, and then the…